The Wedding Rings of Drought

640px-Tree.ring.arp

Dear Russell,

I enjoyed our breakfast and had to run five miles in the midwest summer sun to sweat it off.  The most important part of this journey for me is to develop a strong friendship with someone whom I both deeply disagree with and deeply respect and like.  I have not been a good friend to the skeptical and I now realize that makes me less of a Christ-follower.  So, with your permission, our friendship is teaching me patience like no debate ever could.  You are more important to me than my viewpoint.

In that spirit, I’m going to divert to address one of our favorite readers – – the Counterfeit Christian.  Her last post really got me thinking – – I prayed for her and her husband on my run and formulated this post by the end of it.  I’ll start with my conclusion – – our friendship is not about taking sides or winning arguments.  Our friendship is about loyalty and understanding when we disagree.  And that’s what I want to share with CC.

Excerpts from her moving post . . .

The officiant at our wedding was a minister who had known me for my entire life. He asked me for a verse that was important to our relationship as he considered how to build our personal ceremony. He was surprised when we instantly told him Romans 15:5-6—”May the God of endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and one mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He said that in decades of marrying Christian couples, not one had ever chosen that verse. It seemed like such an obvious one to me.

And our vows…we didn’t write our own to be shared publicly—the ones we wrote came in private letters. Our public vows were written by our officiant, and we hadn’t heard them until our ceremony. They meant so much to me, because they were poetic—this minister knew me well. “I will be to you like a tree firmly planted in streams of water, faithfully yielding its fruit in season, without fear in years of drought.”

Without fear in years of drought.

After my daughter was asleep and I was alone, I didn’t know whether to feel despair for all that I’ve lost or hope for what might still be. Romans 15:5-6 seems like a cruel joke now. Unity? One heart, one mouth? The God of endurance? My husband’s faith didn’t survive our first year of marriage—so much for endurance. I replayed our vows in my mind. “He broke them,” I thought—as I have thought many times before. He was more like a dandelion than a deeply-rooted tree. The magnet force that drew my heart to his is gone. Those songs we sang were just a cruel reminder of what I’ve lost—like half a cup of water when I’m dying of thirst. Would I have ever doubted my own faith without his influence? It’s hard to say. All I know is that every time I doubt my doubt, he pulls me back into it. The tree is uprooted; the streams have dried up. I want out—I want to take my children back to where water flows abundantly and where they can be nourished by trees that bear fruit. Forgive my raw honesty here, but I didn’t sign up for this.

Oh, but I did.

Can you tell you’re getting a live display of my emotions? I’m literally working this out as I type.

Without fear in years of drought.

Without fear in years of drought.

I broke my vows.

This is the drought, and I’m afraid. I’m afraid of how deeply I love him and of how strongly I resent him. I’m afraid to live without him, and I’m afraid to stay with him. I’m afraid to show him my heart with honesty, and I’m afraid that my secrets will make my heart inaccessible to him. I’m afraid to type out these words, and I’m afraid of what will happen if I keep them in until they grow into something that I can’t control.

But I made a vow, and I have to keep it.

I will be to you like a tree…

My love will be immovable, unshakeable. I will be a place of rest and refreshment for you. I will cover you with my prayers.

Firmly planted in streams of water…

I will delight in the law of the Lord, even if you don’t. You were never meant to be the source of my nourishment. My source is deeper, beneath my circumstances, beneath this drought. The wellspring is there, even when I can’t perceive it from the ground.

Faithfully yielding its fruit in season…

May you recognize Him from the fruit that I bear. May the love you see in me identify me as His.

Without fear in years of drought.

This is where I fail you daily. I will do better. I will choose to believe that this is just a drought. I will believe that the music that filled our daughter’s room tonight was a glimpse of something I must hope for and look forward to in faith—not a mockery of what called my heart to you in the first place. I will believe that something in you is drawn to worship even still, and I will not fear—we will survive because of where we’re planted.

I knew that drought would come—without it, there is no need for vows at all. Here in the midst of it, I will keep them.

Her post affected me Russell.  If faith and skepticism are polarizing the world, how much more in the microcosm of marriage?  I can only reply as a Christian with brotherly compassion and scriptural advice.  The scriptural advice is clear – –

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 (ESV)

What do I think of drought and trees and vows and bending hearts?  Look at the tree above closely.  The growth rings that are the closest were formed in the years of drought.  Stay. Whether your husband ever believes or not.  You were called to him for a purpose, perhaps for such a time as this.  Our hearts as believers are to be attracted to the doubting, not repulsed.  That is what a friendship with Russell is teaching me and that is my prayer for your marriage.

Pascal

–1:16

 

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2 comments

  1. Thank you, my brother, for your prayers for my marriage and for your words to me.

    I will stay. That’s a decision I made several years ago, not one I’m making now. I just require occasional reminders that my marriage is a covenant, not a contract—the difference is important. Although my online “journal” may at times make you question this, my final position will always remain the same, regardless of the state of my husband’s heart or my feelings on the matter. Covenant.

    You might be preaching to the choir about loyalty, understanding, and a heart for those who doubt. I remember how intensely I longed to feel God’s love through believers in the midst of my own doubt. I know how puzzling it is that I seemed to love better than they do, even then—I, the doubter, had the special marker that was supposed to identify followers of Christ. Many of them didn’t show me love at all. One of them hated me (at least it felt that way). I love her still.

    People who truly know me know this: I love deeply, to the point of total vulnerability. I love when I don’t want to, when love is not returned, when the risk is greater than the benefit and the sacrifice greater than the reward. It is both the gift that I offer and the burden I carry—my greatest asset and my deepest flaw. My desire for a different marriage than the one I have is limited severely by my overwhelming love for my husband. My desire for a different God who reveals Himself to me on my own terms is limited severely by my overwhelming love for Jesus.

    So yes, I agree—we are called to the doubters and must have meaningful, purposeful relationships with them. We have to model Christ in these relationships that often require sacrifice and teach us patience. This is something I am passionate about, and I have challenged believers before in their attitudes toward skeptics. I’m thankful that you allow Russell to challenge you in the same way. While we both agree that we must love the skeptic, my calling is unique from yours in that I must be in love with the skeptic. You are loyal to Russell even when you disagree. I must be loyal to my husband even when it breaks my heart.

    As always, thank you for reading; thank you for writing. Your prayers, brotherly compassion, and scriptural advice are all precious to me.

    Like

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